Who said fairytales can’t be real and their endings not the end at all…? All is possible through the eyes of the multi-talented Uga Carlini – an award-winning filmmaker (producer/director) of the resounding movie “Alison” and the woman behind the #butterflyrevolution movement…
Q: Uga, we must start by saying CONGRATULATIONS on the incredible success of your movie “Alison”! What made you want to tell this particular story?
Thank you! In 1999, someone gave me the book. In the same year I went to listen to Alison speak at my old high school, soon after reading the book. So many people turned up, that they had to move it from the school hall to the rugby fields and there, with Alison so far away from me that she was a mere spec, but with her voice right by my ears from the intercom system, her story changed my life. And when I looked around, I realised, I wasn’t the only one. On a beautiful summer’s evening, in more ways than one, on the sportsfield of DF Malan High School in the Northern suburbs of Bellville, I made a pact with myself, that came rain or highwater, disappointment or challenge, I WOULD be the one to share what I felt with others through film. And here we are.
Q: What was your reason behind including computer generated imagery and elements of science fiction in this documentary? Was it part of your vision from the start?
It’s two-fold for me. Firstly it’s the obvious. Alison has created her own fairy kingdom. A place of beauty, magic and super femininity. Scarfs with beads and butterflies, rainbow makers, gigantic hearts greet you from everywhere. Outside in the most unexpected nooks and crannies of the magnificent garden, fairy gardens with a impressive assortments of fairy statuettes, lure and surprise. On top of that, this heroine likes the odd spot of glitter and butterflies really are her totem in more ways than one.
She also doesn’t necessarily fit – or want to fit – in the tight yellow rubber suit of Kill Bill or hot pants of the Tomb Raider – even though she loves and commends those heroines too. But then there’s the darker side of all of this. This contemporary real-life fairytale has more than just its moral or ethical undercurrent and lesson to be learned, but like the original versions of fairytales as written down by the Brothers Grimm in their adult versions of the 1800’s (before it became a sanitized, reworked version for children) it is full of macabre and gruesome twists between the magic and miracles.
Evil tried very hard that night to destroy Alison for keeps. It failed. And it failed for many reasons. Partly because of Alison; partly because of the incredible heroic individuals that crossed her path that night and in the days that followed the vicious attack; and partly because of the unexplained. The miracles if you may, the magic if you must! This fairytale is real. There are monsters, princes, princesses and they give the stereotypes of what we’ve been led to believe is the norm a run for their money. I love that! And who said fairytales can’t be real and their endings not the end at all…
Q: Alison is an absolute heroine – not only was she determined to survive her horrifying ordeal, but also ready to share and relive this dramatic experience with the world countless times over. Having worked with her so closely, how would YOU describe her as an individual?
My sister from another mother. And there’s no superhero outfit in Alison’s wardrobe – instead you’ll find some baggy clothes for when she has a fat day. There’s no degree, no wealth. Just Alison. She inspires me all the time because she is human, real and what you see is what you get and on the subject of get – she doesn’t always get it right either. It’s refreshing.
Q: Your production company, TOWERKOP CREATIONS, focuses on telling female driven heroine stories. What is it about women in particular that inspires you so much?
Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her book “Women who run with the wolves” wrote this about women. I always wished that I was the one who wrote it too because for me, it says it all. I simply cannot say or want to say it any differently:
A healthy woman is much like a wolf – robust , inventive, loyal, fierce. Yet, separation from her wildish nature causes a woman to become meager, ghostly, anxious about leaping, fearful to create new life. With the wild nature as ally and teacher, we see not through two eyes only, but through the many eyes of intuition. With intuition we are like the starry night, we gaze at the world through a thousand eyes. The archetype of the Wild Woman carries los bultos, all the bundles for healing and meaning. She carries all the medicines of stories, words and songs, all the mending tools of dances, signs and symbols. She is both the vehicle and destination. She is the essence of the female soul. No matter how many times she is cut back, or called unsafe, dangerous, useless or mad, she rises through the psyche regardless. Even La sombre, the most restrained woman, keeps a secret place for the wild nature. Even La cautiva, the most captured woman, is waiting for an opportunity to hightail it to freedom. All women are born gifted. To live close to the instinctual nature does not mean to come undone. It means to establish one’s creative territory, find one’s pack, be in one’s body with certainty and pride. It means to act on one’s behalf, to find what one belongs too. It means to rise with dignity, to proceed as a powerful being who is friendly but never tame. The Wild Woman is the one who thunders in the face of injustice. She is the one who keeps a woman going when she thinks she’s done for. The Wild Woman is fluent in the languages of dreams, images, passion and poetry. No act of love or social justice occurs without her. She lives in women everywhere; in the barrios and in the boardroom; in the prison and on the mountain at the fire; in the penthouse suite and on the night bus to Hillbrow. She is the mother of El duende, the goblin wind of creativity. She leaves footprints behind for us to try on for size. Whether you are possessed of a simple heart or the ambitions of an Amazon; whether you are trying to make it to the top or just make it through tomorrow; whether you be spicy or somber; regal or roughshod – the wild nature belongs to you. She truly belongs to all. The issue is simple. Without us Wild Woman dies. Without Wild Woman, we die. Para Vida, for true life, both must live!
-Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D (Tweaked slightly by me )
Q: Your #butterflyrevolution went instantly viral and resounded deeply across South Africa! What does this movement represent?
I wanted to do more for the survivors of rape and abuse. I was really touched and very troubled by the outpour from survivors through our social media pages and those who approached us at screenings, so I wanted to create a platform for everyone to join in and help make a difference. So the #butterflyrevolution campaign is inspired by the controversial 1999 Charlize Theron “Real men don’t rape” commercial. But that was just the inspiration. The execution is slightly different.
This revolution is going to our doorsteps. We are saying out loud what WE are planning on DOING about the dire situation of violence against women and children. Charelize wasn’t wrong, but things have gotten even worse since, and we want to know what are the real men and real women of this country – of this world – planning on doing about it.
Our revolution is about that butterfly effect; the scientific theory that a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever, because we too don’t doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. And as Margaret Mead said, indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. So, why have YOU joined the #butterflyrevolution? Set the example, nominate your friends and let the #butterflyrevolution fly! We want to remind, inspire and ignite each other by being silently brave or publically revolutionary.
Q: As women, we always strive to look and feel our best. What is YOUR idea of “beauty”?
“Beauty” is in the eye of the beholder. Beauty for me is what’s left when all the make-up is off, when the lighting is not right and the novelty of the “picture” has worn off.
Q: You’re originally of Italian descent – are there any life philosophies or strong cultural influences that have been passed onto you from the older generations?
My Italian family always reminds me how one of my favorite novels in the whole wide world, “Like water for chocolate” exists in the kitchens and foods of Italy. How the passion, the love and authenticity runs so deep, that if your tears had to fall in the cake you are preparing, your guests too, will cry when eating it – without understanding why.
Q: At MYHRU, we want to promote wellness through taking care of yourself physically as well as spiritually. What is your idea of wellness and happiness? Has it changed over the years?
For me wellness is happiness and happiness is wellness. They co-exist within each other and it is the place where our external (wellness, how we nourish ourselves both internally and externally) and internal (happiness, how much we love outselves) driving forces come together. And as with everything in life there are good days and bad days.
Q: What is important to you when choosing cosmetics? And what is your general skincare routine like?
The most important thing is the fact that it’s not been tested on animals. We have to start taking responsibility for what we choose to support and yes I very much read the labels. Nadia (from MYHRU) in fact gave me my first big lesson on parabens etc – so I prefer natural with a kick – we still need a little help from our skincare – in my case some days a lot more than others haha.
Q: We call our wellness movement MYHRUlosophy. Before you go, can you leave us with a piece of your UGAlosophy?
It ties in with the reason as to why I chose to make “Alison” as my first film – so I’ll answer within this framework For me this story’s ultimate message is a message of empowerment – private empowerment behind closed doors. That place where it’s only you, yourself and yourself again, looking into the mirror and saying: I can do this! Even if no else might think so, I KNOW that I can. And if Alison could, so can I! About how we conquer our own world one day at a time and how more often than not, we have good days and bad days. Triumphant moments and moments where we are at a loss, ready to give up. Do what you need to do to make it happen for YOU. Be that change you need to see. Put on some Florence and the Machine and shake it out! And have desert first, life is just too short and too precious and after all, how many of us really need to be swimsuit models…
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